Friday, February 27, 2015

7 Billion Empathy

Hi! Happy Thursday!

How does each one of us realize empathy for seven billion people?

The Greeks had a word for this kind of love, agape love. One of the reasons I work on Irreni is as an expression of that agape.

But seriously, how do you have empathy for seven billion people?

Before we get to the solution though let us explicate the full nature of the problem by picking on the Muslims.  I'm picking on the Muslims because the world seems to be set against those folk these days.

We've reached a point now where if you criticize a Muslim then you are automatically called a bigot.

Bigotry is a state of mind where a person obstinately, irrationally, unfairly or intolerantly dislikes other people, ideas, etc.[1][2] Some examples include personal beliefs, race, religion, national origin, gender, disability, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, or other group characteristics.
I have been called a bigot on many occasions simply because I am an outspoken atheist. I'm an outspoken, strident anti-theist. Religion is bad. Religion is evil. However, I always attack the ideas. For example I attack the idea that any entity that kills all humans on planet Earth in a great flood save one family is evil, therefore any religion based upon that entity must be evil.  However, when someone like myself attacks ideas one must be ready to be called a bigot and a hater for just attacking the ideas, or even just stating facts.

How do we have empathy for the 1.5 billion Muslims in this world? How do we have empathy for people who attack ideas that define who we are?

Let's get down to the root of the problem. The reason people need to keep saying there are 1.5 billion Muslims over and over again is that the Muslims do not just have a terrorist PR problem, they have a PR problem. Here are a couple of thought exercises to consider:

  1. Who wants to live in a Muslim country?
  2. Name on prominent populist Muslim you like?
  3. Name one thing Muslim people are known for besides terrorism?
  4. Name a Muslim? 
The problem with the Muslim community is that they are invisible to the rest of world.   So much so we constantly have to be reminded there are 1.5 billion of them, much to our surprise. The Muslims  don't just have a terrorist PR problem they have PR problem: the reason the terrorist image sticks is because there is no other image in people's minds to contrast that image with. Nothing.

This public relations problem makes having agape love for Muslims a challenge for the world.

And to be perfectly blunt about it, the Muslims owe us no image. If Muslims want to mind their own business and have nothing to do with the non-Muslim world in general, more power to 'um. I kinda have a soft spot for people who mind their own business.

The PR problem is best illustrated by the fact that the only reason we non-Muslims are to believe that Islam is a religion of peace is because the Muslims tell us so. We have to take their word for it because we have no experience with this. Doctors without borders was founded by France. Name one such charity founded by a Muslim country. Name one. Words alone are the only thing that can tell us non-Muslims that Islam is a religion of peace because we no direct experience with this. Muslims have no players on the world stage. Well, other than the terrorists and the warmongers. Religion of peace? What? That's not what I see on TV and in the news?

This is blog about solutions. The above was the set up for the empathy of 7 billion people solution.

Let us start with some basic facts.

  1. Humans have the most empathy for people closest to them.
  2. Six degrees of separation. Every person on this planet is connected to every other person via six degrees of separation. 
  3. 7 billion people is a big number. Six-degrees of separation is not. 
  4. We now have the ability to telecommute. We can represent ourselves via a technological filter. 
 The solution takes the shape in the form of a thought experiment:
Imagine you are wearing a robotic empathy suit of armor shaped like a person that completely engulfs you. This suit is giant size. This robotic suit is so large that inside it you have enough room to walk around a little,  you can swing your fists and hit nothing, you can jump up and down. The suit comes with a computer and an AI, artificial intelligence. The purpose of the suit is for the AI to restate everything you say, including non-verbal communication, such that whatever culture you are in and whomever you are talking too then you can never say anything insulting, hateful or impolite due to being rude or politically incorrect.

This thought experiment would be a great invention for people with reduced social group skills. When they say "fuck you" then the AI says, "nice haircut!" When touchy people go to touch someone then the AI does nothing. Great! Imagine how many people who cannot work today due to limited social skills could find work with such a robotic suit of armor. Those limited social skill words are translated. Woot!

Just to be clear the translation works both way. If the person inside the suit responds better to "fuck you" then the "nice haircut" comment from outside of the suit would get translated to "fuck you" to the person on the inside of the suit. The point of the suit is to make all communication between humans high functioning given the social group characteristics of each person.

That's the social thought experiment. Does this suit provide 7 billion people with empathy? Does this new robotic suit stop bigotry? No. A bigot can still pass a law against gay marriage, they would just be very polite about it.

The point of the this thought exercise is empathy. The suit translates verbal and non-verbal communication into apparent empathy. I can imagine in the not too distant future folks with limited apparent social skills and therefore apparent lack-of-empathy will be enabled to work via telecommuting and exclusively using avatars the function along the same lines as this robotic suit, translating social skills.

The suit's main benefit would be to provide people who really do have empathy but then express it incorrectly a new way to always correctly express it. The suit enables what might appear to be lack of empathy with the right appearance.

If all 7 billion people on this planet had our new suit would things improve? Yes because I think at the end of the day non-stereotypes get translated. For example there are 1.5 billion Muslims. There are as many different cultures in the Muslim community as there exists many different cultures within any set of 1.5 billion people on this planet. There have to be hundreds of stereotypes the rest of the world has not yet been introduced too about the wide ranging groups of Muslims.

The robotic suit addresses one very real empathy problem, the stranger problem. The suit, by definition, must be loaded with specific information about all 7 billion people or it wouldn't work. The problem with the Muslim community is that the only stereotype of Muslims people outside of that Muslim community is a simple one: a terrorist still living in the 12th century culturally. Bombs and oppressing women. That stereotype isn't even enough to flush out a cartoon character, let alone 7 billion people. Because of no stereotypes then when we see Muslims killing cartoonists, the cartoon image fits the cartoon stereotype we have of Muslims and the Muslims must wear it. Ugh.

The thought exercise robotic suit was meant to illustrate the lack of stereotype, lack of empathy stranger problem and subsequently lack of all apparent empathy in the real world today. The theoretical robotic suit also solves the genetic problem of lack of social skills. Still, the robotic empathy suit will not be able to prevent group bigotry when the only images and stereotypes people have of another group are negative ones. I will always have a soft spot for the French because they founded Doctors without Borders. We are missing these kinda stereotypes for Muslims.

To prevent group bigotry due to only having negative images of strangers then we need a robotic empathy suit upgrade. We need to upgrade from a theoretical robot to real people.

The people you have the most empathy for are those closest to you. That is a fact of human nature. Therefore, using the fact of six-degrees-of-separation then when we communicate with strangers we do so only using our six-degrees of separation chain. This maximizes empathy by negotiating with someone that you have empathy for.

The solution then is that we only negotiate with people closest to us for whom we have the most empathy for. We utilize the discovery of the six-degrees-of-separation chain to maximize people personally knowing each other so as to materialize empathy for all 7 billion people.

Our new chain of empathy acts like our robotic empathy suit but with the addition of being able to negotiate.

Today kinda practice this notion. We call this notion "ambassadors". Ambassadors typically, but not always, speak the language of both countries. Often ambassadors have lived in the foreign country. The issue today is that ambassadors are only one degree of separation and also they have no real negotiating power. The United Nations acts kinda like an ambassador chain of empathy. However, the United Nations doesn't truly scale either because that institution embodies only a country. A country like China has a billion people. Empathy problem not solved.

If we are really going to bring about world class empathy chains then we all must stand at the ready to be ambassadors because finding the six-degrees will involve a map, a new Facebook map, that maps human empathy connections and not just road connections.

Welcome to the information age! How exciting! Let's get Facebook to map those empathy connections! Facebook already has 1.25 billion monthly unique users. We can now realize human maps of connections. We have the technology to map the six-degrees of separation so as to bring about real empathy for all seven billion people: the empathy chain.


The future is coming!

Well come! and Well met!

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